Business and the Thrust of Technology

Regine Lawton, CIO, InnoVista Sensors
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Regine Lawton, CIO, InnoVista Sensors

Tackling ‘The Hurdles’

I see mainly 2 big challenges:

The continued increase in changes across a fast paced industry and business is very challenging for IT systems and IT competencies to keep up with. The rate of change of IT systems is behind today compared to how quickly businesses can evolve and adapt, especially in service industries.

While technology providers are trying to keep up with many of the needed operating and hardware changes, there are always organizational changes and cultural changes that have to come about as well to stay competitive and adjust to the new technical norms. What often happens in companies is that some areas move ahead of others, and it causes a chasm within the company, and start to dismantle the organization. To prevent this, companies often take years to move a whole organization forward, and thus causes disgruntled business partners as they cannot move large organizations fast. We need business and IT organizations to work more hand in hand to come up with solutions, vs. business driving IT organizations to respond to their demands. Often, IT can solve business problems and enable business growth, but the two organizations often don’t see eye to eye. So, there is more collaboration and  engagement of IT leaders into the business decision and strategy making.

Efficient Data Integration

This is very complex problem to solve, and thus should be tackled in small pieces. IT should work closely to identify with business what are the top 3 data points they’d like to improve on, or get more info on, and then IT should work on those data sources first, develop the business intelligence solution for those, and show the business how to best utilize the tools. Once one area of the business is conquered, and then we tackle others. Often, organizations want to do everything at once, and then fail to execute as it’s such a large and complex technical functional area to manage.

  More open-source and agile methodologies to improve products quickly and delivering faster results to customers provide a competitive edge 

The Race to be Ahead

More open-source and agile methodologies to improve products quickly and delivering faster results to customers provide a competitive edge. Often, companies in the manufacturing world stay behind on technologies, for fear of breaking their existing processes, and thus they often find themselves decades behind. Once they decide to upgrade their systems, it often causes massive delays in production as processes break, and delays occur, and thus, having more frequent updates, and technologies that support smooth transitions between versions and applications, better integration paths, would definitely help in our industry.

A CIO’s Nightmare

For our industry, heavily focused on manufacturing, the advances have not been as many as in the service or application industries, and thus making changes is difficult, time-consuming, and very costly to the manufacturing process. The other aspect is there is a lot of data that’s stored on old systems, not connected to the network, for compliance or regulatory ITAR, which makes it difficult to collect, and use for data analysis. What keeps me up at night is how to best upgrade the whole organization to newer systems, and enhanced capabilities to support business needs, while also keeping things running and not having down time.  

Leveraging the New-comers

Social media and mobile devices have greatly affected the speed at which things move, as well as the urgency of requests coming to IT to support new changes. The other area is cloud, which we’re utilizing more and more to help solve business problems and expedite solution finding.

So far, cloud technologies are revolutionizing our business environment, as we’re able to use multiple clouds, ITAR and non-ITAR clouds, save a large amount of CAPEX, and enable the adoption of new ways to transfer data, access data, and backup data. It’s saving time and money overall.

The role of IT is becoming more and more a key participant in the executive team and the business decisions. It still has a lot of challenges ahead to get fully recognized, and accepted as key participant, but things are moving on the right track.

Learning from the Peers

I have spent a lot of 1:1 time with my business peers to understand more their day to day world and challenges, to try to find ways to support them better from an IT solution standpoint. I have tried to recognize their urgencies, and prioritize better within IT, and align my IT roadmap to the business roadmaps for the various business divisions. I have moved several applications to cloud applications and move the service to SaaS for faster response times, and more availability of features within the new cloud applications. I have also converted our old on premise data centers to cloud datacenters, allowing faster availability of data, and close access within the various regions of the world.

The Anchor

The CIO has a large role to play to educate, monitor, set new security policies, as cyber security evolves, and more and more threats occur, as we convert more to the internet and use social media. I believe that companies should either have a CSO or at least a Senior VP or Director Security person under the CIO to handle the growing cyber security function and risks.

Grow From Your Mistakes

First of, I would advise them to be savvy in all the functions of IT and the latest technologies coming up that may help in their industry. Be aware that things are not going to change quickly, as many things are engrained, and that it takes time to make large IT changes, and that all changes should really support the business, either directly or indirectly, otherwise, the CIO will not get much support from its peers. Use their network of other CIOs or other IT technologists to learn from past experiences, and mistakes, to see how best to do the things they need to do in their organizations.

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